On Tuesday, the Minnesota Twins went from playing baseball just about every day to playing twice in a 24-hour period. That’s the reality of playing in a city where for some reason it is still snowing in April.
“It’s been a long day of baseball and you knew that’s what’s going to happen when you play a split doubleheader like that,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team defeated the Miami Marlins, 4-3, in a 1:10 p.m. CT game that lasted just under two-and-a-half hours, but then dropped the second game 8-5 in a 7:10 p.m. CT contest that went longer than three-and-a-half hours.
“The second game dragged, not the pace you liked,” he continued. “The second ballgame, the pace, the package just wasn’t very good.”
Here’s the gist of what happened in Minneapolis on Tuesday: Starter Kevin Correia worked fast and efficiently, going deep into the game, and the Twins won. Mike Pelfrey had a slow start in Game 2, throwing 50 pitches in two innings, and Minnesota lost.
Kevin Correia has the right mindset on the mound
Correia knows that he is not Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez or Aroldis Chapman. He’s not going to strike guys out left and right, he’s not going to throw in the upper 90s and he’s probably not going to get a lot of complete games.
What he is going to do is keep the Twins in games and go deep enough into the game to keep the bullpen well-rested.
“I’m not going to go out there and throw a ton of shutouts,” the former Pittsburgh Pirate admitted after his outing, where he went seven innings for the fourth straight start. “I just try to go out there and limit the runs and maximize the amount of innings that I can pitch. If you throw quality starts, your team has a chance to win that day.”
That’s the mindset every pitcher should have on this staff. Nobody needs to shut out the opponent because the lineup is good enough to produce four, five or six runs a game. All they have to do is keep the other team from putting the game out of reach.
The same cannot be said of Pelfrey, who gave up four runs and used 50 pitches in the first two innings. To his credit, the former New York Met gutted it out for two more innings before long reliever Anthony Swarzak entered the game in the fourth frame, but it marked the fourth straight time that Pelfrey has failed to pitch six innings.
“Giving up three runs and five in Kansas City, that’s unacceptable,” said Pelfrey, referring to his two-inning outing against the Royals earlier in the year. “It’s never been like that and I need to be a lot better than what I have been.
“I said in Kansas City that that loss was on me and this loss is on me too.”
Drafted ninth overall by the Mets back in 2005, Pelfrey is coming off of Tommy John surgery, but has proven that he is more than capable of being a pitcher who can go six, seven innings and keep his team in the game, and his frustration was palpable in the locker room after the game.
“I worked so hard getting back from this injury and I feel good and it just hasn’t been too pretty yet,” he said. “I know that I need to be better and I know that I can be better. I’ve worked way to hard to go out and pitch like that.”
Gardenhire is committed to Pelfrey, and the Twins faithful hope that, given time, he will eventually return to form.
Brian Dozier is the leadoff man
Maybe I’m entranced by the cadence of his Southern accent or his locks of goldenrod hair that flow like the Mississippi River. Maybe it’s the fact that he led off Game 1 with a triple and went 3-for-4. Whatever it is, I’m sold on Brian Dozier.
He’s fast, selective at the plate and has more pop in his bat than people realize.
Now that he is settled in at second base, the former shortstop is playing better defensively, and his confidence in the field has carried over to his plate appearances.
“Last year it bothered him when things would happen,” avers Gardenhire. “He wouldn’t get any hits, but he’s confident at second base. He’s confident in his game.”
It also doesn’t hurt having Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit, Chris Parmelee, Trevor Plouffe and the surprisingly productive Eduardo Escobar (.480/.500/.720) hitting behind you.
“We joke about it, calling it Murderers' Row,” he says with a beaming smile. “Nobody wants to pitch to those guys and I wouldn’t either.
“To have the middle of the lineup we have, one through nine, everything fits well.”
About that Murderers' Row
I’m making an official proclamation: From here on out, as long as the lineup remains productive, I’m calling it Murderers' Row.
It’s sort of a misnomer because Gentleman Joe and Crew hardly profile as serial killers, but the moniker is badass and sounded so funny coming from the amicable Dozier that I have to use it.
(Literally, the man’s Mississippian accent is sweeter—and thicker—than molasses. "Murder" shouldn’t even be in his vocabulary.)
As long as the Twins start playing Escobar more frequently, and at this point they have to, that lineup is deadly.
Yes, Plouffe and Parmelee are sitting dangerously close to the Mendoza Line. Yes, Oswaldo Arcia is sitting at .167. And yes, Hicks is still hitting less than .100.
But both Plouffe and Parmelee are Willingham disciples who can hit for power. And Arcia just got called up and already hit a bomb that cleared the right field wall by a good 30 feet. And don’t give up on Hicks just yet, he’s improving now that he’s hitting later in the batting order and is thriving in the outfield.
On top of that, Mauer looks like he wants to hit .400 and Morneau has found his power again, meaning the M&M Boys are back!
Murderers' Row? Like McDonald's, I'm lovin' it!
It’s pretty simple out here in Minnesota: The pitchers need to offer quality starts, Dozier needs to keep doing his thing and Murderers' Row needs to do the Fargo and drop opponents through the ol’ wood chipper.
And dammit, it needs to stop snowing so these guys can play games on an everyday basis.
All quotes were obtained firsthand.